What to Do if Your Credit Has Been Wrecked by a Family Member

Question: I am 24 years old and my credit is not too spectacular.

Most of the accounts on my credit reports are things I have done to myself, but the other half (and the most expensive portion of my debt) was done by an immediate family member who knows my social security number and has put cable, electric and telephones in my name and did not pay the bill.

I don’t want to get my family member in trouble but I am not sure what to do?

Answer: You should start by taking control of your finances and being honest about what is going on.

You are the victim of identity theft, pure and simple. And it’s well past time you started letting others know that you did not authorize or open those utility accounts and that you are not responsible for them, period. End of story.

Start monitoring your credit every month to make sure nothing else unexpected pops up there. Put a credit freeze and a credit alert on your credit reports to prevent further damage from this person who has blatantly taken advantage of you.

Lastly, you need to confront this person directly. It doesn’t matter if that person is a “close” family member.

I don’t care if it’s your sister, a cousin – or even your mother.

Let this individual know that they have totally crossed the line and damaged your finances and credit rating in a way that is completely unfair, disrespectful to you, and that has long-lasting implications.

Tell the person that they have exactly 1 week to contact every creditor in which they used your name to cut off service in your name — and put it in their name.

If that person’s credit is bad (which I suspect it is) and they can’t get a phone, electric service or cable in their own name, that’s their issue to deal with; not yours.

A week’s time is plenty of notice for them to take action. Tell them that if they don’t handle it in a week, you will be forced to contact those utilities directly and advise them of the situation.

Hopefully, you will be stern and straight-forward enough in your approach to this person that he/she will know that you mean business.

I’m not saying that you have to turn the person in (although they do deserve it). But neither should you be held continually responsible for someone else’s financial mess.

If the person doesn’t act quickly, and follow through as you’ve told them to do, don’t hesitate to get those services cut off. If push comes to shove, and you “have to” tell who the culprit is, I would go ahead and do it.

Why would you go through unwarranted financial stress for this person when clearly they’ve shown you absolutely no personal or financial consideration whatsoever? – Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach

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